Stow, in his Survey of London, p. , informs us, that
It appears by the charter of foundation of this hospital, as inserted in the Monasticon,[*] that
beneath the church of St. Mary,
, is Gayspur Lane (now
), which runneth down to
, in which Lane, at the north end thereof, in Cripplegate Ward Within, was of old time a house of nuns, which house being in great decay, WILLIAM ELSYNGE, mercer, in the year of Christ
Ed. III.), begun, in place thereof, the foundation of an hospital, for sustentation of
blind men, towards the erection whereof he gave his
houses in the parish of St. Alphage and our Blessed Lady in
, and also his houses and rents in St. Lawrence Jewry and St. Mary Pomeroy.
and that the foundation had not only the King's license, but the consent of Stephen Gravesend, Bishop of London, as well as of the Dean and Chapter of , who, being patrons of the church of St. Mary, , did, with the good will and consent of the said Bishop, appropriate the same to the newly-founded hospital. They, however, had this proviso,
it was founded on the
first day of June 1331
By what has preceded, it appears that Elsinge Hospital, at , consisted of a custos or rector, and secular priests, besides the poor miserable pensioners.
that the Dean and Chapter should ever after have the
right of patronage in both,
tanquam in beneficiis unitis et consolidatis.
Also, that the Dean and Chapter should prefer the custos and rector of the hospital and parish-church, and the
priests (there being appointed but
, who shall celebrate divine offices in the said hospital), and William Elsinge, or his assigns, the other
. And that the custos and rector, in his institution to the said hospital and church, should have the care of the souls both of the said hospital and parish committed to him, and should swear fealty to the said Dean and Chapter, and should pay them yearly the antient pension of
due from the said church, and a pension of half a mark imposed upon the said hospital by the founder, in token of subjection to the church of St. Paul; and that the said custos and rector should find
fit parish-priest, to be approved by the said Dean and Chapter, to serve the cure of the said parish; and that no custos should be preferred to the said hospital, or admitted to the said church, unless he was in priest's orders, and have no other benefice.
The pious founder, desirous of extending the plan of this institution, in , with the consent of the Dean and Chapter, obtained of Ralph , Bishop of London, his license to change the secular priests into canons regular of the order of St. Augustin, and to be governed by a prior: the Bishop also added another canon, making up the number , who were to be under the government of the prior, and upon every vacancy, by license from the Dean and Chapter, was to be chosen by the canons, and presented to the Dean and Chapter for approbation; he was then to be presented to the Bishop, who was to confirm him, declaring at the same time,
that he did not, by such confirmation, intend, in any respect, to derogate from the rights of the Archdeacon of London.
William Grey, Bishop of London, patron and ordinary of Thele College, Hertfordshire, in the diocese of London, consisting of a master and chaplains, who, through the greatest negligence, had suffered much of the lands of that foundation to be lost, obtained a license of Henry VI. dated at , , to transfer the possessions which remained belonging to that College to the priory of Elsinge Spital, on condition to find canonsregular in the church of Thele, and in the priory, to pray for the souls of Sir William de Goldington, the founder of Thele College, his wife Margaret, his ancestors and heirs; and for the souls of Robert de Vere, Earl of Oxford, and Thomas de Vere, his son, &c. The estates conveyed by this transfer were the churches of Stansted Thele and Aldham, and various lands, tenements, and possessions, situated in Buer Gifford, Chelmsford, Writtle, and Bromfield, in the county of Essex; and Thele, Stansted-Abbot, Amwell, Broxborne, and Hoddesdon, in the county of Hertford. Bishop Grey, with the consent of the prior and convent, ordained, that
for the said Bishop's indemnity, they and their successors for the future, upon every vacancy of the said priory, should, within
days after the installation of their new prior, pay
English money to the said Bishop and his successors, in the name of a pension, under pain of sequestering the church of Thele, and ecclesiastical censures; and also
yearly, at Easter, in the church of Thele, to the poor of the said parish.
Without any further accession of estate, Elsinge Hospital remained till the reign of Henry VIII. when it shared the fate of other religious houses, and was surrendered to that monarch in the year of his reign, its annual value amounting to
The Harleian Manuscript in the , No. , has the following List of Superiors of Elsinge Spital, extracted from the Bishop of London's Register:
Elsinge Spittle Magistri:
Henry Hoddesdon. Elected Dec. 12, 1427. Resigned Dec. 1, 1438.
John Bell. Elected twelve days afterwards. Cited to Convocation 1439.
John Wannel. Cited to Convocation 1509, and 1529. Resigned in Dec. 1532.
Richard Pottyn. Elected and confirmed January 18, 1533.Malcolm's
Londinium Redivivum, I. 437.
In Dr. Fiddes's Life of Cardinal Wolsey, Appendix, occurs the name of
who was present at the convocation summoned to discuss the divorce of Henry VIII. from Queen Catharine of Spain.
Roger, Prior of Elsing Spittle,
Henry VIII. granted the desecrated priory to John Williams, Esq. afterwards Sir John, and Lord Williams of Thame, and Keeper of the King's Jewels; who converted the hospital, with the lodgings of the prior and canons, into a dwelling-house; the chapel yard he transformed into a garden; and the cloisters he reduced to a gallery; while the apartments of the poor blind brethren he converted into stabling for his horses! During his Lordship's residence an accidental fire broke out, on Christmas Eve , in the gallery, which burnt with such fierceness, that the whole house and other buildings were consumed, and several of the royal jewels embezzled and destroyed.
Previously to this accident, the chapel of the priory had been appropriated to be the parish-church of St. Alphage, on the following occasion.—We shall extract the circumstances in the words of Mr. Reading, as inserted in his
at the end of his Catalogue of Sion College Library:
State of Sion College,
Their former church, which stood on the other side of the way, near Cripplegate, being grown so ruinous by length of time, that it wanted to be taken down and wholly rebuilt, and this chapel being now in the disposal of King Henry VIII. the parson, churchwardens, and parishioners petitioned the King, and thereupon obtained an Act of Parliament, that the church or chapel of the priory of Elsynge's Spittle should thenceforth be known, reputed, and taken for the church of St. Alphage, and serve them for all offices and exercises of religious worship, in the same manner as they used their old parish-church. Of this act there is a copy in the churchwardens' register, which I have perused; and immediately after it, follows an acquittance for one hundred pounds, which they paid the King for their new church, in these words:
The Copy of the Quittance for the Money paid for the Church by the then Churchwardens of the Parish Church of St. Alphage.
This bill indented, made the 7th of June, in the thirty-eighth year of the reign of our Sovereign Lord Henry VIII. &c. witnesseth, That I, Sir John Williams, Knight, Treasurer of the Augmentations of the Revenues of the King's Crown, have received North-West View of the Interior of St. Alphage Church London Wall
of George Foster and John Hueson, churchwardens of the parish-church of St. Alphage, besides Cripplegate, within the city of London, the sum of forty pounds sterling, in part of payment of one hundred pounds, due to the King's Majesty, for the gift, graunt, and clerc purchase of the said church, chauncel, and steple, with the bells in the same steple; over and besides forty pounds, paid into the hands of Sir Thomas Poope, Knight, late Treasurer of the same Court of Augmentations; and over and besides twenty pounds, paid unto the hands of Robert Maddye, servant unto John Onley, Esq. deceased, late Attorney of the said Court of Augmentations; as by a certificate made and signed with the hand of Richard Duke, Esq. Clerk unto the said Court of Augmentations, plainly doth and may appear. In witness whereof, to these presents, subscribed with my hand, I have put my seal, the day and year above wrytten.
The chapel having been thus appropriated as the parish-church, we continue its history to this period. The adjoining premises, which had been destroyed by fire, having been rebuilt, Margery, daughter of Lord Williams, and wife of Lord Norrys, conveyed the whole estate, after her father's death, to Sir Rowland Hayward, Alderman and Lord Mayor of London in and the latter part of , for the sum of Sir John Hayward sold it to Mr. Alderman Robert Parkhurst, reserving a quit-rent, and , left by his father to the poor of St. Alphage for ever.
In the church underwent a repair; in , at an expense of ; and again in . In the year the church was declared to be in such a decayed and dangerous state, that a committee was appointed for rebuilding it. An offer was made by Mr. (afterwards Sir William) Staines to take down the old and construct a new fabric, for the sum of ; his offer was accepted, and the present church was opened in the year .
The structure is of brick and stone, with fronts; in , consisting of a pediment, supported by pillars; between which, in the centre, is a Venetian window, and on each side circular windows, over false doors. The front facing is composed of a lofty pediment, supported by pillars, between which are a plain arched window, and a door-way into the church. The interior is without pillars, and devoid of ornament: it is, however, very neat.
The most remarkable monuments are the following:
. of marble, for Sir Rowland Hayward, twice Lord Mayor of London, in the year and part of . His effigy is carved in a kneeling posture, with wife and children, in the same attitnde, at his right hand; and his wife and children at his left; and under the image of Sir Rowland in this inscription:
Here lyeth the body of Sir Rowland Hayward, Knt. twice Lord Mayor of this city of London: living an Alderman the space of thirty years, and at his death the ancientest Alderman of the said city. He lived beloved of all good men, and died in great credit and reputation the 5th day of December, Ann. Dom. 1593, and the thirty-sixth year of the reign of our Sovereign Lady Queen Elizabeth. He had two virtuous wives,His first wife was Joan, daughter to William Tillesworth, Esq. by whom he had three sons and five daughters. And his second wife was Catharine, daughter to Thomas Smith, by whom he had also three sons and five daughters. and by them many happy children.
Underneath are the armorial bearings of the Company of Clothworkers.
The monument has the following additional inscriptions:
On rebuilding this church, in
, this monument was repaired and beautified at the expense of the parish: Sir R. Hayward having been a liberal benefactor, this monument was again erected to perpetuate his memory.
. A tablet, dedicated
To Benjamin Russell, Common Council-man, (who deceased)
. Mrs. Christan Russell, his widow,
. And Mr. William Molyneux, of Liverpool, her nephew,
. Mrs. Russell surviving her husband, disposed of her estate to pious and charitable uses. To the repair of this church,
To the charity school,
To the Corporation for the Relief of Clergymen's Widows,
To the Wiredrawers Company a silver salver.
to relieve poor widows. And to Bethlehem Hospital,
Besides a great number of private charities. Grant them, O Lord, a blessed resurrection!
. Near the above is a large monument, on which is sculptured Charity nursing infants. On the monument is the following, in memory of the deceased:
Samuel Wright, late of Newington Green, in the county of Middlesex, Gent. departed this life July 28, 1736, in the 56th year of his age, and lies interred in this chancel. Exemplary he was for his virtue, piety, humanity, sweetness of temper, and good manners; and for his extensive beneficence, exemplified in the many great and well-chosen gifts he bestowed in his life-time, besides the charitable specific legacies he bequeathed in his will, being 20,950l.; and also the residuary part of his personal estate, which was considerable, to other charitable uses, at the discretion of Thomas Clegg, Joseph Parr, and Joseph Speed, his executors. In memory whereof this monument, as part of the rites due to the obsequies of so good a benefactor to human kind, and that his good works might shine the more conspicuous to the present age and to posterity, is here erected by his only surviving executor, Joseph Speed.
Blest Charity! how extensive dost thou shine
In goodness, mercy, and in love divine!
From which, with pious zeal, let man confess
He owes his being and his happiness;
With bounteous pity comfort the distress'd—
Heaven's imitator will by Heaven be bless'd.
We have classed these memorials together, as belonging to family.
On a gravestone in the middle aisle:
Thomas Wright,Thomas Wright, the father, though an Independent, and one of Mr. Howe's congregation, was a strict monthly communicant in the Church of England; had twenty-two clergymen and dissenting ministers attending his funeral; and a sermon preached by the Rev. Mr. Philip Stubbes, who gives him a commendable character: that he was compassionate and liberal to the poor on many occasions; and never failed, though indisposed or in the country, coming to receive the sacrament every month at his parish-church. After he was out of his apprenticeship, he began the world with nine shillings, which he laid out in dried peas and horse-beans, and dealt in them by retail, till by his industry he scraped up wherewith to buy him utensils to set up his trade of a wire-drawer or maker of silver lace; but it being a time of public mourning for Oliver Cromwell, and trade dull, the wire-drawers worked for him a farthing an ounce cheaper than ordinary, on account of his punctual payment; but, to encourage those that were industrious, he sometimes paid them the farthing abated. After the restoration of King Charles, joy and finery seem to have had no bounds; there was so great a demand for gold and silver lace, and Mr. Wright furnished so much of it, that he was enabled to leave an estate acquired of 42,000l. which, in the year 1727, came all to the youngest son, Samuel Wright, whose monument we have noticed.
This gentleman, among other legacies, bestowed by will as follows:
To six nonconformist ministers of good life and conversation, that are not worth 200l. each in the world, the sum of 100l. each.
To six honest sober clergymen, of temper and moderate charitable principles to their dissenting brethren, that are not worth 200l. each, or provided with a living upwards of 40l. a year, the sum of 100l. to each.
To forty poor decayed families, that have come to poverty purely by losses and misfortunes unavoidable, the sum of 100l. to each.
To forty poor widows, upwards of fifty years of age, that are not worth 50l. any one of them, the sum of 50l. each.
To forty poor maidens, whose parents formerly lived well, and now come to decay, and have not 100l. each to their portion, 100l. each.To twenty poor boys, to clothe and put out to apprentice, the sum of 50l. to each.To the Society for Reformation of Manners the sum of 500l.
To the Society for propagating the Gospel in foreign Parts the sum of 500l.
To Christ-church Hospital 1000l.
To St. Thomas's Hospital 1000l.
To Bethlem Hospital 1000l.
To the new part for Incurables 1000l.
To St. Bartholomew's Hospital 1000l.
To the London Workhouse 1000l.
To the Prisoners in Ludgate, 500l.
the Fleet Prison, 400l
To the Prisoners in the Marshalsea, 300l.
Whitechapel Prison, 300l.
To the poor at Great Paxton, at Lubbenham, at Islington, in Bow parish by Old Ford, and to the Poor of St. Alphage, London, the sum of 50l. to each of the said parishes. Towards the close of the will is inserted:I would be buried by my dear father and mother, in St. Alphage Church, London. of this parish, citizen of London, departed this life Nov. 26, 1700, in the 62nd year of his age: in memory of whom his affectionate wife Amy laid this stone; who died February 3, 1724, in the 85th year of her age. Close adjoining,
Thomas, eldest son of the above Thomas and Amy, who dyed March 25th, 1727, in the 65th year of his age. Also,
Samuel Wright, Gent. late of Newington Green, who dyed July 23, 1736, aged 56.
In the church of St. Alphage, Anno Domini , was also buried Richard Leigh, Esq. Clarencieux King of Arms, author of The Accidence of Armoury, &c.
Among the rectors was JAMES HALSEY, who in was most infamously treated by the rebels, and died of grief in . He was succeeded by JOHN SEDGWICK, who, according to Newcourt and Granger, was but of very indifferent character. His successor was the famous THOMAS DOELITTLE, who was deprived for conconformity in . The next rector was MATTHEW FOWLER, S. T. P. of Christ-church, Oxford, and in his younger years of those, scholars who valiantly defended the cause of King Charles I. The present rector is the Reverend ROBERT WATTS, A.M. Librarian of Sion College.
The only remaining part of Elsinge Spital is the lower division of the steeple of the priory church, which forms of the plates of this number, and is a very interesting relict of that antient religious foundation.
It occupies a square of feet at the western end of the church, and consists of lofty arches of unequal heights; those on the north and west sides measuring from the area to the top feet; the other sides feet. From the points of the latter, the old wall ( feet inches thick) rises feet. The wall above is only feet; so that there has been evidently a later superstructure—occasioned, probably, by the fire of London, which had damaged the church steeple as well as Sion College.
The bells are in number: a tenor of cwt. and a sanctus of cwt. They are supported by an antient oak frame fixed in the old wall, at a short distance from the top; and are ascended to by a small stone staircase, winding up a circular stone tower, at the north-east corner of the steeple. Both staircase and tower are exceedingly decayed.
We have thus presented to the view of our readers the various transformations of this religious foundation, from a nunnery successively to an hospital and priory, till its dissolution as a monastery by Henry VIII.; and also the account of that portion of it which was allotted to be the parish-church of St. Alphage till the present period. An account of its restoration, both as an ecclesiastical and charitable foundation, very properly occurs.
[*] Vol. II. 462.